When our kids were little, we didn’t own a car, so all our journeys were by public transport. With a toddler and a baby, our double buggy was effectively our ‘car’ – the kids sat or slept side by side, and the buggy also functioned as our ‘boot’, holding everything on its handles or in the storage space below. Trips to the shops were especially interesting. The trick was to balance the shopping on the handles – too much weight, the buggy tipped backwards; uneven weight on one side, the buggy was hard to push and veered in one direction.
In short, it was all about balance. Get the balance right and even a buggy with 2 children and 40 lbs of food shopping could glide (slowly) along the pavement.
Balance matters in church life too. God gives his people a wide range of spiritual gifts for a reason – he mentions some in v26, or you can check out the list again in chapter 12 if you’ve got time. Sadly churches can often focus on two or three particular (visible) gifts, leading to a lack of balance and the tendency to veer in one direction. St Paul’s advice is very simple: ‘Everything must be done’ (v26). Every gift contributes something special – not only in enabling the whole church to be involved, but in balancing the ministry of the church so that it can move forward in love towards God, and the wonderful richness of the kingdom of God can be displayed.
The reason is equally simple: everything must be done ‘so that the church may be built up’. In God’s community we all get to build, we all get to contribute.
The young church in Corinth certainly had its problems. And Paul wrote much of his advice to correct some of the howlers they’d got mixed up in. Sometimes his correctives are taken as a sign that he was trying to put a lid on things. But that’s not the case. Paul’s passion for the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit is clear, and he concludes his three chapters (12-14) of detailed teaching with this lovely summary: ‘everything must be done’ – i.e. these gifts are all valuable – ‘so that the church may be built up’.
Just as a fire needs a fireplace so that its heat and light can be channelled to best effect, so the Spirit’s fire needs a fireplace of diversity, shared experience, and humble, loving service to manifest the true glory of the kingdom of God.
Today, we’re that fireplace. May God be pleased to blaze his spiritual fire in and through us.